A Las Vegas, Nevada lawyer wanted to handle medical malpractice cases and wished to stack the odds in his favor so that he would receive substantial settlements in the medical malpractice cases he handled — in doing so, he wrongfully put his financial interests above the interests of his clients.
How did the medical malpractice fraud scheme work? A dishonest medical malpractice consultant reached out to the Las Vegas medical malpractice attorney and entered into an agreement with him to receive 40% of the fees that the lawyer received as a result of personal injury cases that the consultant referred to him. The consultant also had financial agreements with other Las Vegas personal injury lawyers and with Las Vegas physicians, including two spine surgeons.
The Lawyer’s Client
On August 3, 2000, the two spine surgeons performed surgery on a woman who became paralyzed from complications after the surgery. The woman subsequently became the medical malpractice client of the lawyer. One of two surgeons knew that his care of the woman could be found to have been below the standard of care and that he could be sued for medical malpractice. In order to protect himself and the other spine surgeon, the surgeon requested that the consultant set up a meeting with the woman’s medical malpractice lawyer to persuade the lawyer to not name him or the other spine surgeon as medical malpractice defendants in a lawsuit.
In the spring of 2001, the consultant and the lawyer met and agreed on the referral fee arrangement between them. In the summer of 2001, the consultant met with the lawyer and requested that he not name his client’s two spine surgeons as defendants in the medical malpractice lawsuit, claiming that the anesthesiologist was responsible for the client’s injuries. The lawyer initially refused the request that the two spine surgeons not be pursued for medical malpractice but in September 2001, the lawyer re-focused the medical malpractice claim away from the surgeons and towards the anesthesiologist, immediately after the consultant referred a lucrative personal injury case to the lawyer.
During the fall of 2001, the consultant arranged a meeting among the lawyer and the two spine surgeons that the lawyer insisted be kept secret. The lawyer agreed during the meeting that he would not sue the surgeons if they agreed to testify against the anesthesiologist. At the lawyer’s request, one of the surgeons wrote a report in January 2002, blaming the anesthesiologist for the client’s injuries and concealing his own responsibility for the injuries. The report was edited by the consultant.
In May 2002, the lawyer deposed both spine surgeons. One of the surgeons falsely testified during the deposition that he had not spoken with the plaintiff’s lawyer before the deposition and he further failed to disclose his own partial responsibility for the woman’s injuries. The lawyer subsequently sued the anesthesiologist and others for medical malpractice but did not sue either spine surgeon.
On November 23, 2009, one of the spine surgeons pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of felony and was sentenced on January 14, 2010 to five years of probation, six months of home confinement, 250 hours of community work service, and was ordered to pay $3.5 million in restitution.
On February 23, 2010, the plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawyer pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice charges and was sentenced on June 3, 2010 to three years probation, 90 days of home confinement, a $25,000 fine, and was required to pay $702,600 to the former client.
In March 2010, the consultant pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of felony by failing to report to proper authorities that the medical malpractice lawyer and the spine surgeon had committed fraud, and he was sentenced on June 25, 2010 to four months in prison, one year of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $700,000 in restitution.
(In January 2010, the consultant was convicted of four counts of willful failure to pay tax, and was sentenced in April 2010 to four years in prison, one year of supervised release, and was ordered to pay approximately $2.5 million in restitution.)
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